Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/409

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SAVAGERY AND SURVIVALS.

of some ceremonies, while it is said that in ancient Russia the father, taking a new whip, would strike his daughter gently, and then hand it over to the groom, indicating thereby that a change of master had taken place.

The blood-feud or revenge offers a field of similar interest to a student of legal and institutional history. Formerly, before the age of judges, state prisons, and reformatory institutions, it was the custom for an individual to take the law into his own hands. "Self-help," says Farrer, "is for individuals the first rule of existence. But generally this deficiency in the legal protection of life and property is made up for by a principle which lies at the root of savage law the principle, that is, of collective responsibility, of including in the guilt of an individual all his blood relations jointly or singly."[1] One can see upon reflection why the avenging of murders or wrongs committed should be regarded as a family or tribal rather than a personal affair, on account of the powerful influence it must have in repelling crime and keeping the public peace. A good illustration of blood vengeance we have among the native Australians today, where it is regarded as one's holiest duty to avenge the death of his nearest relation. The force of public opinion compels the man to do his duty by his relative. It is the custom among a certain Brazilian tribe for the "murderer of a fellow-tribesman to be conducted by his relatives to those of the deceased, to be by them forthwith strangled and buried, in satisfaction of their rights; the two families eating together for several days after the event as though for the purpose of reconciliation." But the affair is not always so happily and permanently healed, for if the guilty one escape the avenger slays his nearest relative. Consequently, it was a matter of the greatest importance that the punishment should be visited upon the real culprit, and frequently both families united in hunting down the murderer. But more often, where the innocent received the punishment due the guilty, hereditary feuds sprang up between the tribes, and tribal warfare resulted.

The right of revenge was a recognized principle of the Jewish law, as seen in the following quotation from Exodus: "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."[2] It was likewise a right recognized by the law and custom of the Germans. In time the right of revenge gave way and certain modifications of the old institution were made to relieve its severity. This was probably due, as Tylor suggests, to the increase of population and the growth of town life. Among the Jews the right of revenge was suspended on


  1. Farrer's Primitive Manners and Customs, p. 163.
  2. Exodus, xxi, 23-25.